The Isle of the Lost (Page 5)

Frightened students scrambled to get out of their way as Mal and Jay walked past the dead ivy–covered great hall toward the rusting double doors that led to the underground class-tombs. A tiny first-year pirate who ran with Harriet Hook’s crew got lost in the shuffle, blocking their path.

Mal came to a halt.

The boy slowly lifted his head, his eye patch trembling.

“S-s-so s-s-sorry, M-m-m-mal,” he said.

“M-m-m-MOVE IT,” Mal said, her voice high and mocking. She rolled her eyes and kicked the torn textbooks out of her way. The boy scampered toward the first open door he saw, dropping his fake hooked hand in his haste and sending it rolling away.

Jay kept his silence, knowing to tread lightly as he picked up the hook and stuffed it inside his jacket. But he couldn’t help asking, “Why not just throw a party of your own instead of sulking about it?”

“What are you talking about?” said Mal. “As if I care.”

Jay didn’t reply; he was too busy hugging himself tightly and wishing he’d thought to bring a warmer jacket instead of a sleeveless vest as the temperature dropped the usual twenty degrees as they ventured down the cold marble stairs to the damp basement gloom of campus.

Mal had gone silent for a moment, and Jay assumed she was still brooding on what happened ten years ago, when she suddenly snapped her fingers and said, with a wicked gleam in her eyes, “You’re absolutely right, Jay. You’re a genius!”

“I am? I mean, yes, I am,” replied Jay. “Wait—what am I right about?”

“Having a party of my own. There’s a lot to celebrate, after all. You just said there was a new princess in our midst. So I’m going to throw a party.”

Jay goggled at her. “You are? I mean, I was just kidding. Everyone knows you hate…”

“Parties.” Mal nodded. “But not this one. You’ll see. It’s going to be a real howler.” She grinned. “Especially for the new kid.”

Jay smiled back weakly, wishing he had never mentioned it. When Mal got like this, it usually had terrible consequences. He shivered. There was a definite chill in the air—a new wild wind was blowing, and he was smart enough to worry about where it would lead.

In the Castle-Across-the-Way lived a lived a mother-and-daughter duo very different from Maleficent and Mal. Unlike the shabby Victorian confines of the Bargain Castle, this one was full soot and dust, with broken chandeliers and spiderwebs in the corners. It wasn’t so much a castle as a cave—yet another prison within the prison of the island. And for ten years, this mother and daughter had only each other for company. Banishment to the far side of the island had made Evil Queen a little odd, and Evie couldn’t help but notice how her mother insisted on making declarations just like some legendary “magic mirror.”

“Magic mirror in my hand, who is the fairest on this island?” Evil Queen asked as Evie was getting ready that morning.

“Mom, you’re not holding anything in your hand. And anyway, is that really the first thing on your mind? Not breakfast?” asked Evie, who was starving. She perused the day’s offerings—hard croissants and watery coffee from the basket the vultures left on their doorstep every day.

“Your daughter has grace but should take better care of her face to be the fairest,” her mother declared in somber tones that she called her “Magic Mirror” voice.

Fairest, prettiest, most beautiful. The thickest hair, the fullest lips, the smallest nose. It was all her mother cared about. Evil Queen blamed all her troubles on not being more beautiful than Snow White, and it seemed no matter how well Evie did her hair or put on her makeup, she would never be beautiful enough for her mother. It made Evie sick to her beautiful stomach sometimes. Like mother, like daughter—or so she’d always been told. The poison apple never fell far from the tree.

And even if Evie suspected there might be more to life than being beautiful, that wasn’t something she could ever say to her mother. The woman had a one-track mind.

“You didn’t put on enough blush. How will you ever win a handsome prince, looking like that?” her mother scolded, pinching her cheeks.

“If only there was one around here,” said Evie, who dutifully took out her compact and reapplied. There were no princes to be found on the island, as all the princes lived in Auradon now. That’s where all the world’s royalty lived—and that’s where she should live too. But it was not to be. Like her mother, she would be trapped on the Isle of the Lost forever.

Evie checked the hallway mirror one last time and adjusted her blue cape around her shoulders, the back of it embroidered with a crown in the middle. Her poison-heart necklace winked red in between the soft blue folds. Her raggedy black skirt with the splashes of red, white, and blue paint went well with her forest-print-like black-and-white leggings.

“Your hair!” Evil Queen said with despair, tucking a loose strand back into her daughter’s neat V-braid, which swept her hair off her forehead. “Okay, now you’re ready.”

“Thanks, Mom,” said Evie, whose only goal was to survive the day. “Are you sure it’s safe to go to school?”

“No one can keep a grudge for ten years! Also, we’re all out of wrinkle cream! Pick up some from the bazaar—I don’t trust the vultures to send the right one.”

Evie nodded and hoped her mother was right.

But when she stepped out of their castle gates, she froze. Maleficent’s curse echoed in her ears. But nothing happened, and she kept going. Maybe, for once, the wicked old fairy had forgotten about it.

When Evie arrived at school that morning, everyone stared at her as she walked through the halls. She felt a bit self-conscious, and wondered if she’d ever fit in. She was supposed to check in with Dr. F, the headmaster, when she arrived. But where were the administrative chambers? Evie wondered, whirling around in a full circle.

“May I help you?” a handsome if somewhat hairy and very large boy asked when he saw her.

“Oh—I’m looking for the headmaster—?”

“Follow me,” he said with a broad grin. “Gaston, at your service…and this is my brother, Gaston.” He pointed to his identical twin, who gave her the same beaming, arrogant smile.

“Thank you, uh, Gastons.” Evie replied. The boys led her down the hall to the administrative-tombs.

“Dr. F, you got a visitor,” Gaston said reaching for the door handle.

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